Mind Body Wellness
Your Vagus Nerve can improve health, mood and even your orgasms
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
Your body is home to over one hundred nerves and more than 100 billion neurons. The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body and is critical to your overall health, affecting mutliple organs and systems of the body.
Starting at the base of the brain, the Vagus Nerve goes down the neck next to the carotid artery, wrapping around the heart, and ‘wandering’ (vagus is Latin for wandering) down to the spleen, liver and stomach. More recently, researchers have found it extends in women to the uterus, cervix and possibly the vagina.
It works as a two-way messenger, passing electrochemical signals between the organs and the brain and constantly sends and receives messages to and from most of the organs in the body.
Overseeing a vast range of crucial functions and communicating motor and sensory impulses to every organ in your body, if the vagus nerve is compromised, so are you.
A healthy, balanced Vagus Nerve supports your being and body in many ways. Crucially, it acts like a Reset Button, rapidly turning off the stress, hyper-arousal, and fight/flight/freeze response. Modern living means many people are existing in a prolonged state of fight/flight and resetting this is vital.
Other ways a the Vagus Nerve supports a healthy body and mind are:
Helps reduce depression and anxiety
Turns on neurogenesis, helping your brain grow new cells and sharpens your memory
Lowers the chances of getting tension headaches
Blocks systemic inflammation throughout the body - a major contributor to ageing, poor health and disease
Blocks the hormone cortisol which ages and deteriorate the brain
Reduces high blood pressure
Turns down allergic responses
Multi-tasking on a near constant basis, the Vagus nerve works without us knowing but yet is vital for keeping our body and mind healthy. The strength of your vagus response is known as your vagal tone.
Research has also found that high vagal tone improves the functioning of many of the body’s systems. It reduces inflammation and the chances of strokes and heart attacks, while regulating blood sugar levels. It doesn’t end there. Those with a well toned vagus nerve are also found to be happier and are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
A well toned vagus nerve is even said to result in better orgasms, the pathway for messages from the pelvic region to the brain. It also enables orgasms in those that have spinal cord injuries, with no feeling in the pelvic region. Because the vagus nerve travels outside the spinal cord, it is not affected by the damage to the spine.
There are many benefits to a toned vagus nerve. However low vagul tone is linked to cardiovascular diseases, strokes, diabetes, depression, chronic fatigue and other auto-immune disorders.
How to improve the tone of your Vagus Nerve for better health
There are a number of things you can do to stimulate and tone your vagus nerve. If you think you're Vagus Nerve is really out of whack, then seeing a holistic practitioner would be a great start. I use a lovely, gentle Integrated Healing technique to support and tone the vagus nerve. From here you can work on maintaining and toning in your daily life. There are easy steps you can take.
Deep and slow breathing
Most people take about 10 to 14 breaths each minute, taking short, shallow breaths. Focusing on taking longer, deeper breaths over a few minutes is a great way to stimulate the vagus nerve and relieve stress. The deep, slow breathing can reduce your blood pressure in minutes. It's not possible to focus on breathing constantly but if you can take a moment every hour or spend 5 minutes when you can to breath deeply, you will be doing your Vagus Nerve, body and mind a great service.
Get cold, very cold
A cold compress or even a cold shower are amazing ways to stimulate the vagus nerve. Placing an ice pack on the back of your neck will increase your parasympathetic nervous system and calm you down almost immediately by lowering your heart rate. It also helps reduce headaches and migraines and is a good first response to headaches.
Acute cold exposure has been shown to activate the vagus nerve and activate cholinergic neurons through vagus nerve pathways. Researchers have also found that exposing yourself to cold on a regular basis can lower your sympathetic “fight or flight” response and increase parasympathetic activity through the vagus nerve.
Try finishing your next shower with at least 30 seconds of cold water and see how you feel. Then work on increasing the period of cold water at the end of your shower. You will feel great after. If the thought of this has you shivering, you can try an ice pack on the back of your neck or wash your face with icy, cold water.
Maintain a healthy gut
The vagus nerve sends messages on a near continuous basis from the gut to the brain. Poor gut health compromises the vagus nerve and the transmission of signals. There is growing understanding between poor gut health and depression and anxiety.
Probiotics are a great way to improve gut health. Cutting down on processed foods and sugars will also improve microbiome in the gut.
Spending money on expensive products isn’t necessary (and these often don’t survive the digestive system) but making fermented foods such as sauerkraut, milk and water kefir, and kombucha are great ways to consume probiotics. If you don’t feel you have the time to make these (and I assure you they don’t take long and take care of themselves most of the time), then a probiotic I recommend is Optibac.
Make exercising the Vagus Nerve a priority
It’s clear that the Vagus Nerve has a crucial role in maintaining our health and preventing inflammation and disease, not to mention keeping us happy.
Is it time to start prioritising your vagus nerve and not just focusing on muscle tone or physical appearances? I would say yes! The benefits are too significant to ignore.